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Monthly Archives: February 2016

PAC Men’s Basketball Tournament Preview: Saint Vincent Still the Favorite, But it Could Get “Messy”

By Justin Zackal

Jaylon Bell and the Bearcats are looking for a 4th straight title.

Jaylon Bell and the Bearcats are looking for a fourth straight PAC title.

Saint Vincent is looking to become the first school to win the PAC men’s basketball championship in four straight years in more than two decades. The Bearcats will have home court advantage for the PAC Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament February 22-27, which will be held on the campuses of the higher seeds of each game and involve all 10 of the league’s teams. Here is a look at the storylines to follow this week:

THE SET PLAY: The four lowest seeds play each other on Monday for the right to play in Tuesday’s quarterfinal round against the top two teams. Thursday is the semifinals and Saturday is the finals. All games start at 7 p.m. except Saturday night’s 7:30 tip-off.

“Not only do the higher seeds hosts, but we reseed after each round,” said Waynesburg head coach Mark Christner, whose Yellow Jackets won two PAC tournament games at home last year before losing at Saint Vincent, 72-66, in last year’s final. “That really allows the teams that had nice regular seasons to take advantage of that.”

THE LAY-UP: Top-seeded Saint Vincent (19-6, 15-3 PAC) was picked to win the PAC in the preseason poll, but they have lost to three PAC teams in the last month of the season and barely got by fourth-seeded Thomas More (15-10, 12-6 PAC), 63-62, in the regular-season finale, albeit after they already had the No. 1-seed locked up. Still, there’s no denying the Bearcats’ tournament experience and their ability to remain atop the standings all year.

“They are the clear favorite going into the year and I don’t think anything has changed,” Christner said. “Their perimeter guys are certainly explosive and to me that’s their separation from the rest of the league.”

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Andrew Beckman and the Wolverines are the hottest team in the PAC with six consecutive wins.

THE GOOD LOOK: Teams that finish the regular season hot can carrying that momentum over into the tournament. Last year, Waynesburg won its last seven games and wound up in the finals. This year’s hot team: second-seeded Grove City (18-7, 13-5 PAC), winners of six straight games, including a dramatic, last-second 65-63 victory at Saint Vincent on February 13. The Wolverines’ 18 regular-season victories are the most for the program since the 1988-89 season, and their 13 conference wins are the most in program history.

THE LONG SHOT: Eighth-seeded Geneva (5-20, 5-13 PAC) opens at home against ninth-seeded Chatham (4-21, 4-14), a team that’s lost eight straight, and if seventh-seeded Westminster (8-17, 8-10 PAC) dispatches the 10-seed, Washington & Jefferson (1-24, 1-17 PAC), the Golden Tornadoes will travel to Saint Vincent instead of meeting the streaking Wolverines. Geneva played spoiler two years ago, beating top-seeded Bethany, 61-59, as the nine seed in the quarterfinals, and this year the GTs have two of the PAC’s top three scorers in Ethan Adamczyk (18.3 ppg) and Chaese Vaudrin (17.2 ppg).

If you’re looking for a milder upset from the bottom five seeded teams, go with sixth-seeded Thiel (12-13, 10-8 PAC) winning at three-seed Bethany (16-9, 12-6 PAC) in the quarterfinals. The Tomcats won their last meeting with the Bison, 84-80, on January 30.

FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Christner touted Saint Vincent’s perimeter players, which are led by senior G Jaylon Bell (16.8 ppg), his pick for league MVP. The Bearcats also have senior Gs Pat Jones (13.9 ppg) and JC Howard (9.8 ppg).

Fifth-seeded Waynesburg (10-15, 10-8 PAC) was able to win at Saint Vincent, 73-64, on February 3. Despite that Bearcat trio scoring 42 of the team’s 64 points, they shot 31.5 percent (12 for 38) and 34.5 percent (19-55) as a team.

“We weren’t afraid of the moment and we really defended them well,” Christner said. “That’s what it takes; you have to be able to guard the perimeter guys and keep in front of them, and you have to be able to hold your own on the boards. If you can do those things, you have a chance.”

Thiel senior Khari Bess may be playing his best basketball at the right time.

Thiel senior Khari Bess may be playing his best basketball at the right time.

Thiel senior G Khari Bess is the league’s stats-sheet stuffer, leading the nation in steals (3.7 spg) and ranking 17th in assists (5.8 apg) to go with his 15.5 scoring average.

“It’s difficult because you try to bring the ball up against him and he kind of waits a little bit and sets your man up and picks your pocket late,” Christner said. “He’s shot it better here as of late, too. He’s playing at a high level.”

How about a player who doesn’t fill up the stats sheet but is just as much of a pain for opposing teams? That’s Grove City sophomore C Andrew Beckman.

“He can get under your skin,” Christner said. “He plays really hard and makes really good plays for his team as far as blocking a guy out or setting a really good screen and just being a general, difficult guy to guard.”

THE LAST SHOT: Anything can happen in a tournament that involves every team in the conference. And while there’s parity in this year’s field, there’s still a clear favorite in Saint Vincent, a streaking upstart in Grove City and after that, who knows.

“If you look at the results in our conference it’s really been as we thought it was going to be and that’s kind of a little bit of Saint Vincent at the top and a little messy in the middle,” Christner said. “Everybody’s going to have the opportunity to go play and that’s the Division III experience; that’s what it’s all about.”

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PAC Women’s Basketball Tournament Preview: More on the Line Than Thomas More’s Inevitable Title

By Justin Zackal

There’s more at stake than Thomas More’s quest for a 10th straight PAC title as eight of the league’s 10 teams compete in the PAC Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament February 22-27. Here is a look at the storylines to follow this week:

THE SET PLAY: This is the second year of a double-bye format for the women’s tournament, with the top two seeds going directly to the semifinal round. The third and fourth seeds receive one bye to the quarterfinals. Top-seeded Thomas More (25-0, 18-0 PAC) will host the semifinal and final rounds on Friday and Saturday. The first round and quarterfinals will be hosted by the higher seeds on Monday and Wednesday. This benefits second-seeded Washington & Jefferson (21-4, 16-2 PAC), which didn’t have a double bye last year as the three seed and can’t afford another weaker team on its schedule as it looks to pad its resume for an NCAA tournament at-large bid.

THE LAY-UP: Understatement of the year is saying Thomas More is the easy favorite to win its 10th straight PAC title. The Saints are Division III’s top-ranked team and defending national champion. They’ve won 82 straight regular season PAC games and outscored PAC teams by nearly 50 points per game this year (averaging 97.5 points allowing 49.2).

“They are significantly better than last year, if that’s possible,” said Jina DeRubbo, head coach at W&J, whose only two conference losses this year were to Thomas More by scores of 103-56 and 88-57. “Just when you think it can’t get any worse (for other teams in the PAC). The sophomores that were freshmen last year, they’ve gotten a lot better with more confidence and more game experience.”

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Senior Beka Bellhy leads a W&J team hoping for an NCAA Tournament bid.

THE GOOD LOOK: Washington & Jefferson has the most on the line as it attempts to qualify for the NCAA tournament. Sure, a monumental upset of Thomas More would give W&J an automatic berth, but a win in the semifinals and top seeds in the other conferences in the Great Lakes Region winning their tournaments doesn’t guarantee anything. Remember, last year’s PAC runner-up Saint Vincent was 22-5 and didn’t make NCAAs.

“Even at that, it’s probably a 50/50 chance,” DeRubbo said. “We have a better chance to make the NCAA tournament than we do to win the conference championship. I’m not saying we can’t win a championship. You don’t have to be better than Thomas More to beat them; you just have to be better on one particular day.”

DeRubbo wasn’t afraid to put pressure on her players to collect wins against teams other than Thomas More, telling them that they have to be perfect in those games.

“We have no margin for error,” DeRubbo said. “We have to be 22-5 if we want even a look to get in the tournament.”

THE LONG SHOT: Every team other than Thomas More winning the title is a “long shot,” but here are two possible upsets to watch in the semifinals and quarterfinals.

Third-seeded Waynesburg (13-12, 11-7 PAC) enters the tournament on a four-game win streak, rebounding from a five-game losing streak that culminated with a 90-84 loss at W&J in which the Yellow Jackets led with under five minutes left. If Waynesburg wins in the quarterfinals, it’ll likely face W&J in the semifinals.

“I think they are a dangerous team,” DeRubbo said. “The last game they played us very well. I think they are a team that has gotten better over the course of the year.”

Fifth-seeded Saint Vincent (13-12, 8-10 PAC) opens with eighth-seeded Bethany (8-17, 6-12 PAC), a team that’s lost eight straight, in the first round. And if the Bearcats advance to the quarterfinals, they go to fourth-seeded Grove City (13-12, 10-7 PAC), a team they beat 55-41 on February 13 as part of winning five of their last seven.

Moss

Thomas More’s Sydney Moss became the PAC’s career scoring leader on Saturday.

FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Thomas More senior G/F Sydney Moss, the PAC’s all-time leading scorer with 2,103 career points, is averaging 20.7 points per game this year. The two-time Division III Player of the Year entered last week ranked 15th in the nation in scoring.

“She’s just on such a different level than everyone else,” DeRubbo said.

W&J senior G/F Beka Bellhy is second in scoring (18.2 ppg), but her sister, sophomore G/F Rachel Bellhy, is helping carry the load with a 9.4 average that includes 13.7 in her last seven games and a pair of 20-point games.

“We’re more balanced at this point than we were at the beginning of the year,” DeRubbo said. “Beka still continues to score a lot of points, but I don’t think she has to in order for us to win.”

Two post players to watch are Grove City senior Kathryn Erbelding, the PAC’s leading rebounder with 9.0 boards per game, to go with a 15.4 scoring average. Waynesburg sophomore F Abby Knetzer averages 14.1 points and 8.8 rebounds, including 22 points and 10 boards in her last three games.

THE LAST SHOT: Thomas More is tuning up for another national title run and W&J has a possible NCAA berth at stake, but another dynamic to the double-bye format is a chance for lower seeds to distinguish themselves against more evenly matched opponents and to play a home game, like seventh-seeded Geneva (9-16, 6-12 PAC) playing at six-seed Chatham (10-15, 6-12 PAC).

“There are usually three or four teams that are clearly the top half of the conference and this year it’s a little more open,” DeRubbo said. “(Lower seeded teams like) Chatham and Geneva have gotten over the hump and have done some good things this year. (The new format) gives more excitement for those teams.”

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Grieving Geneva Soccer Players Continue Mission Trip to Haiti

By Justin Zackal

Geneva Golden TornadoesDespite their heavy hearts, nine members of the Geneva College men’s soccer team maintain a servant’s heart.

Last fall, a group of Geneva players attending a weekly bible study had a plan presented to them by assistant coach Caleb Musselman. It had nothing to do with soccer strategy, although Geneva, which finished 13-5-4 last season, were in second place in the PAC standings at the time.

Musselman, whose full-time job is campus ministry for the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO), told the team about a spring break mission trip to Haiti where the guys would work at an orphanage.

“Right away I’m like, ‘I have to go,’” said Luke Nolan, the team’s starting goalkeeper.

Ten players, including five freshmen, along with Musselman, fellow CCO staffer Patrick Emery and local pastor and team chaplain Matt Frey, committed to making the trip March 4-12 to Cap Haiten, a city on the northern coast of Haiti.

“It was cool to see those guys who decided to commit to that,” Musselman said. “Most of the guys that are going have never been overseas or on any type of service trip, which is pretty cool. This is all so new to these guys.”

But then, on January 24, came tragedy.

One of the players planning to make the trip, freshman Nate Ferraco, was killed in a car accident in Butler County.

After reevaluating their plans, the players decided to continue with the trip. Much like a team taking the field one player short to honor a fallen teammate, the Geneva players decided not to find a substitute for Ferraco.

Ferraco

Geneva College mourns the passing of Nate Ferraco.

“In this way, we are remembering that he is still with us and that he is not replaceable,” Musselman said. “We have decided to still take this trip to honor Nate and to grow closer as a group through this difficult time. Our minds and hearts are broken but our faith and hope is not shaken.”

They’ll stay at the Joshua House, a missionary lodge which hosts many church groups so they can work at a nearby orphanage that houses about 150 children. The guys will teach vacation bible school at the orphanage, facilitate a soccer camp and build permanent soccer goals.

“I hope to really impact the lives of [the orphans],” Nolan said. “The children, they all play soccer and God blessed us all with the ability to play soccer in college, so we are trying to help and really connect with them through the game of soccer.”

By partaking in “experiential learning,” a core value of the CCO, Musselman says it’s important for team members who are only familiar with each other in situations such as practice, traveling to games and eating together in the cafeteria.

“They mostly know each other in one environment or sphere of life, which is soccer,” Musselman said. “That camaraderie is strengthened the most when they are put into situations that they are not comfortable with together. That’s the key to the experiential learning piece. That’s really where my heart is in this; it’s about service to others, but it’s also about camaraderie and learning more about each other and learning to help each other and strengthen each other as a group.”

The bond is even stronger since January 24.

“As we grieve, we have all gained a new perspective on how short life is and what a blessing it is to wake up each morning to another day,” Musselman added.

The cost of the trip, according to Musselman, is $2,000 per person. While the CCO is providing some support and individuals are raising funds on their own, the team has a group fundraising goal of $5,000 to offset the costs. If you’d like to contribute, the team is accepting donations, in honor of Nate Ferraco, through their GoFundMe page. There is also a separate scholarship fund set up as a memorial for Ferraco on behalf his high school’s soccer team at Penn Hills.

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Crivelli Family Bragging Rights at Stake in PAC Wrestling Championships

By Justin Zackal

Thiel senior Marco Crivelli.

Thiel senior Marco Crivelli.

Blood is thicker than water, but is it more vivid than the color of a wrestling singlet?

Two brothers have grappled with this question the last three years when the wrestling teams at Waynesburg University and Thiel College faced each other. They’ll do it one more time Friday as Thiel hosts the 2016 PAC Wrestling Championships.

Marco Crivelli is a senior who leads Thiel in wins this year with a 19-1 record, mostly at 184 pounds. His younger brother, Filippo Crivelli, is a junior who leads Waynesburg in wins with a mark of 26-10 at 141 pounds.

This puts the Crivellis in an awkward situation, especially when a brother is wrestling one of his sibling’s teammates.

“It kind of does,” Marco said. “Whenever (my teammates are) out there and saying, ‘Well, you got to beat him,’ and talking talk crap about my brother, it’s part of the game. Deep inside I want my brother to win, but I want my team to win also.”

“It’s like, obviously, I always want my brother to win all the time,” Filippo said. “To me, it’s family first, but at the same time my teammates are essentially my family too. I want my brother to win, but, for me, whoever wins, wins. Let the best wrestler win. It’s hard; it definitely is.”

So what do they do when their brother is wrestling a teammate?

“When he’s wrestling (a Thiel wrestler), I just sit off to the side and walk back and forth and cheer in my head kind of thing,” explained Marco.

“I try to stay away from the bench and distance myself from everyone,” Filippo said. “I don’t want to disrespect my teammates, but at the same time I don’t want to disrespect my brother, because I know he’s always there for me and I always want to be there for him.”

Their parents, Ugo and Annamarie, sit in a neutral section of the gym and cheer for each son. Annamarie has a customized stitched sweatshirt, cut down the middle so one half is Waynesburg orange and the other half is Thiel navy blue and gold.

None of this would have been a problem if Filippo would’ve followed his brother to Thiel, but each brother has found his place – and success – at his school.

Marco has a 76-37 career record at Thiel, including 24-9 last year as the PAC champion at 184 pounds. He has a 3.58 grade-point average, and, as a criminal justice major, he is in the process of being admitted into the Pennsylvania State Police Academy.

Waynesburg freshman Filippo Crivelli. (Photo courtesy Waynesburg Yellow Jacket).

Waynesburg junior Filippo Crivelli. (Photo courtesy Waynesburg Yellow Jacket).

Filippo is 80-43 and was the PAC champion at 133 pounds as a freshman, before a runner-up finish last year. Preference for his major, exercise science, was just one of the reasons he chose Waynesburg.

“Honestly, I think it was cool that we went separate ways,” Filippo said. “Sometimes growing up together you need to get a little distance from each other.”

Not to mention their separate weight classes, the Crivellis are two different styles of wrestlers. Marco has a more brute-strength style and Filippo, a more technical style. However, just because the Crivellis remain loyal to one another when they’re pitted against each other’s teammates, that doesn’t mean they don’t throw a few barbs at one another.

“We just brag and make fun of each other,” Marco said. “We just say, ‘Your team sucks.’ Stuff like that. We just fire away at each other.”

“It’s obviously fun and we always talk about it and whose team we think is better and stuff like that,” Filippo added.

The PAC Championships are pivotal for Crivelli family bragging rights. Thiel is the defending champion, but Waynesburg won during Filippo’s freshman year. Marco says his team has battled many injuries this year, which is why he has wrestled up in weight classes, appearing at 174, 184 and 197 at times this season. Waynesburg, meanwhile, is a younger team that lost three starters last year and was picked third, behind Washington & Jefferson, in the preseason poll.

Despite Thiel winning a dual match, 24-16, on Jan. 29 in Waynesburg, Friday’s championships at Thiel could settle the score.

“(Marco) deserves bragging rights (for last year), but ultimately it come down to PACs,” Filippo said. “We’ve really grown throughout the year and we’re really proving that we can win it and hang with Thiel. We were pretty confident we could beat them (on Jan. 29), but we know what mistakes we made and how to beat them next time.”

For Marco, the outcome was ideal in the dual match at Waynesburg. Marco won by tech fall at 197 pounds and Filippo won by a 5-3 decision at 141 pounds.

“That’s what I asked for; that’s what I wanted,” Marco said.

But, still …

“PACs is what really matters,” Filippo added.

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Bellhy Family Point Total Nearing 4,000 at W&J

By Justin Zackal

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Senior Beka Bellhy is currently 6th all-time in scoring at W&J.

The Bellhy family combined for 59 points Wednesday night, including two Bellhys scoring their season highs.

Senior Beka Bellhy scored a season-best 30 points in the Washington & Jefferson women’s basketball team’s 87-72 win at Geneva, while brother Nate Bellhy, a senior at California (Pa.), bucketed 17, his most of the year, in the Vulcans’ 71-65 home win over Pitt-Johnstown. Sophomore Rachel Bellhy scored 12 points for W&J as well, just four days after her season high of 22 vs. Chatham.

Adding up the Bellhy family points is a fun exercise, especially for those at W&J where the family point total is 3,905 entering the weekend.

“I actually had no idea,” said Nate, whose Cal U points aren’t included in that total since he transferred from W&J. “That’s kind of awesome to have 4,000 points combined in the family at one school. ”

“I think it’s really cool,” Beka said. “I’m proud of that, but (…) I’m just not paying attention to that until after the season, but I think it’s cool.”

Oldest brother Zach Bellhy (1,504), who played for the Presidents from 2009-13, ranks fourth in W&J men’s history and Beka is sixth (1,364 and counting) in W&J women’s history. Nate (812) played two years at W&J after transferring from Seton Hill, but before finishing his eligibility at Cal U this year while pursuing a graduate degree. Rachel (225) is just getting started in her second season.

“The Bellhy family name is W&J basketball around here,” said W&J women’s coach Jina DeRubbo. “You think of W&J basketball when you think of them.”

Right now, Beka is racking up the most numbers as the leading scorer in the PAC with 17.0 points per game.

“Beka has definitely taken a leadership role on that team,” said Nate, who has made it to a few of his sisters’ games this year despite his busy schedule. “She goes out and tries hard every game to do what she can to help her team win.”

Entering this weekend, the Presidents are 17-3 overall and 12-1 in the PAC.

“Beka’s been so great this year,” DeRubbo said. “Her scoring but (also) her leadership. Beka is one of the most competitive people I’ve ever met. She refuses to lose. She’s just elevated her game this year in terms of making the people around her better.”

That includes Rachel, who is averaging 8.6 points this year, but with double figures in eight of her last 10 games.

Nate Bellhy played two seasons at W&J.

Nate Bellhy played two seasons at W&J.

“It’s really fun to play with her,” Beka said. “We just know, more so than anyone else, where we are on the court, so I can just turn and throw a pass and you know she’s going to be there to make it.”

This is the same connection Nate had with Zach. A reason why Nate transferred to W&J was to play alongside his older brother.

“Oh, yeah, definitely,” Nate said. “Just being able to have him around all the time whenever we’re just shooting in the driveway or going out to play open gym somewhere, you have an opportunity to play with your sibling more than you do with the rest of your team.”

The Bellhys have enough to field a team when you include Tina, a high school basketball player who’s now a freshman volleyball player at Cal U. However, Nate said they don’t play as family other than the occasional shoot-around in the driveway.

And they could easily outfit a team with W&J apparel.

“Yeah, me and my brother will get our shirts mixed up every once in awhile,” Nate said. “Beka has the most because she’s been there the longest. But we all have our fair share.”

They have a fair share of points, too.

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